As an added bonus, fall gardening becomes much easier as the air is cool and you can do this job even at high noon and remain comfortable. You don’t have to get up early to beat the heat either. Not to mention that there’s less work involved when it comes to watering your garden. Mother Nature will do much of the watering for you during the autumn months.
For your fall garden, you should pick those vegetables that actually thrive under the colder or even frosty conditions. Therefore, I recommend the following “hardest vegetables you can try this autumn.”
- Broccoli - Although not all kids like broccoli, this is one of the healthiest vegetables you could choose for your fall garden. It grows easily and can withstand frost. Broccoli needs to be planted at least a month before the first sign of frost. For fall plantings, start your transplants in September and plant them out in October.
- Cabbage - For your fall garden, it is important to select the right type of cabbage. There are two main types of cabbage: early and late. Pick late cabbages to plant by seed during mid-summer into September and you can continue with transplants into mid-October. These vegetables are ideal to grow in the fall since they love cool and moist temperatures. Most cabbage varieties take up to 100 days to reach full maturity.
- Carrots - These vegetables should be in every single garden as they can be grown in just about any season. Not to mention that they can be preserved in the ground with good results. Some gardeners say that the sweetest carrots are those grown in the fall – I agree. To make sure you have a good yield, you can protect your carrots from the cold by covering their roots in mulch. You can seed carrots anytime from October thru December but keep in mind that they do not transplant well.
- Chives, (both Garlic and onion) - Chives are cool-season, cold-tolerant perennials that can thrive in your fall garden. Plant them from September thru December. You can harvest chives 60 days after seeding and they grow well next to carrots.
- Lettuce - After years of gardening, I can say that lettuce is one of the hardiest of vegetables in my fall garden. It grows well in the fall and lettuce seedlings are able to tolerate a light frost. Sow a three-foot row of lettuce seeds every couple of weeks from September thru the end of March to provide fresh young leaves for the entire season.
- Radishes and Beets - Radishes need to be planted in late summer since they need only 30 to 60 days to ripen. You should wait until their roots are at least one inch in diameter to harvest. Beets are somehow similar, but the time required to ripen for picking is a bit longer. It takes them 60 to 110 days to mature. Your beets should be harvested when they peek out from the top of the soil. Sow radish October thru February and beets from October thru December.
- Onions - Compared to all the other hardy vegetables in your fall garden, onions take longer to reach maturity. They need around 110 to 140 days to mature, so you will need to plant them in early summer. These vegetables need climates with the longest growing seasons. You can use onion sets, which can be planted without worry of frost damage. They have a higher success rate compared to direct seeding or transplants. Get those onions in the ground from October thru December.
- Garlic - I’m always plating garlic before the first sign of frost and I learned to use it outside my kitchen as well. It’s a good insect repellent and it has many medicinal properties. Fall planting gives it a jump start on the growing season and it will be one of the first things to come up in the garden next spring. I plant my cloves in October.
- Peas - Although peas do not stay fresh as long after the harvest as the other vegetables from your fall garden, you can still enjoy them. Plant peas September thru January. The key is to plant only varieties with a known tolerance of (or resistance to) heat and diseases. I love to get my snow peas in the ground before October hits.
- Pumpkins and Winter Squash - Squash and pumpkin can be planted during summer and harvested just in time for Halloween. They will have plenty of time to mature if you leave them enough space in your fall garden. It takes 80 to 110 days for squash to fully ripen. These hardy vegetables are ideal for your fall garden since they can provide for you throughout the winter into the following spring. I’ve tried varieties such as acorn squash or butternut squash with great success. But the key here is to plan very far ahead and plant them in April thru June for an October harvest.
- Spinach, Collards, Kale, and Turnips - These wonderfully nutritious and delicious veggies can be planted from seed from October thru December and will thrive in the cooler fall temperatures. This is especially true for the turnips that are at their sweetest in the fall garden.
Summer might be high season in the vegetable garden, but autumn brings wonderful rewards as well. Fast-growing salad crops will revive the most bedraggled fall gardens, and good care can keep sweet root crops and cabbage cousins growing for several weeks beyond the first frost.
The secret to having great fall garden is timing your vegetables. That means thinking a little differently because you have to plan backward.
Start with your area's average first fall frost date. Then look at the number of days to harvest for planting fall vegetables. You should be able to find that number on the seed packet or in the catalog description. Use that number to count back from the first frost date. Then add two weeks, because many fall vegetables grow more slowly as days shorten in fall.
Here's an example: If your first fall frost typically occurs around October 31 and you want to grow 'French Breakfast' radishes, which mature in about 25 days, you'd plant them around September 22. In my area the first frost date is November 15th so I have until the first week of October to get my radishes in the ground.
You will also want to think about compost. If your fall garden vegetables have a lot of clay in the soil of the garden, it's helpful to work in some organic matter, such as compost, to get your fall vegetables off to a great start.
You will most likely grow most of the fall planting vegetables for your fall garden from seed. Use the extra seeds you didn't plant in the spring or purchase new ones. Happily, many garden centers put their seeds on discount late in the season, so you might be able to save a lot of money by planting fall vegetables. Want to save even more money? Save your seeds from last year's crop.
The basics of starting with seeds are the same in autumn as in spring—use a high-quality seed-starting mix for best results. If you reuse the containers you used for your seeds in spring, be sure to wash them in a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water to kill any disease organisms that might be lurking about.
No matter what you decide to grow in your fall garden, these vegetables will be far superior to those you can find in a grocery store. They will cost less and most importantly, they will show you how to become self-sustainable. When you think about vegetable gardening do not think only about the spring garden. Growing your own food is much more rewarding when you can extend the gardening season. Not to mention that the colder soil temperature of late fall will sweeten the flavors of many of the vegetables listed above. Plan your fall garden properly and you will be able to enjoy garden-fresh vegetables when your neighbors are rushing to the store.